Logan and Grandma visit Grandpa's gravesite on what would have been his 80th birthday.
I can't believe it has already been a year since my dad passed away. I think about him every day and see bits and pieces of his larger-than-life personality in Logan. Love you and miss you, dad! This is what I'd like to think you're doing right now, sitting at a dock taking in the scenery.
Missing my dad on this Father's Day. This photo was taken at my Debutante Ball (look at that ridiculous dress!). You'd think a heavy metal-loving teen would have hated every minute of waltz classes with her dad, but this one will cherish those memories forever. Save the last dance for me, dad. Love, Patty
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family in your time of great loss. We loved you Big Bird and we will miss you.
Mark and Lydia Graff
Growing up, my dad was larger than life to me—the sort of man legends, or at least tall tales—were made of. As I got older, I realized he was human and made mistakes like the rest of us. That was hard to swallow at times, but dad often said his theme song in life was Frank Sinatra's “My Way,” because at the end of the day, whether he was right or wrong (which of course he never was!), he always did things his way. Usually accompanied by a loud story, and an infectious laugh.
He never shied away from the spotlight that comes with being the center of attention. In fact, he reveled in having all eyes and ears on him. And he captivated an audience no matter where he was—from his hometown of Faison, NC, to Russia (where the KGB once trailed him) to New York City, Egypt, Italy and beyond.
As funny as he was, though, he was equally accomplished as the former Vice President of Adams Air & Hydraulics, a Colonel in—and former President of—the Rough Riders, former President of Brandon Rotary and a 4-time Paul Harris fellow recipient. He also contributed to NASA's space exploration in the 1960s, was an admiral in the Texas Navy, two-time Kentucky Colonel, plank owner on the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, and a Korean War vet.
To me, however, he was a leader, motivator, philanthropist, mechanical genius, storyteller, world traveler, dancer, pool shark, die-hard Bucs fan, dad, and friend—someone I could turn to during the toughest times and know that he'd always be there to catch me when I fell. He taught me to be independent, how to strive to be the best I could be, but not to be ashamed to ask for help along the way.
At times, he had a tough exterior, and not everyone got to see the softer side of him, but I did. I'll never forget the tears we shared at my wedding before we walked down the aisle together; the smiles he put on sick children's faces when he handed them teddy bears with the Rough Riders, and stories of him bragging about Mona's and Billy's accomplishments when they weren't around to witness it. And, mom, believe it or not, he did the same about your cooking too. Whether he told you or not, no one's corn bread, pork chops or banana pudding could ever live up to yours in his eyes.
Those of you who knew dad from the Rough Riders knew him as Big Bird. When he was in the hospital a few months before he passed away as he was talking about his illness he said, “Even Big Bird can't fly forever.” Well, Dad, in our hearts you always will. And not to be outdone, I bet you'll be up their soaring higher than any other and probably throwing in some loop de loops just because you can. You were always one to break records—and the rules—and we will always love you for that.